Known officially as a ‘hackney cab’, Black Cabs have been a common sight on the streets of London since the early days of motor cars. As early as the 17th century, public transportation for-hire came in the form of a horse-drawn vehicle known as the ‘Hackney Carriage’, and in 1823 a two-seat, two-wheeled carriage called a ‘cabriolet’ was introduced from France. By 1920 motorized taxi cabs were a common sight on London’s streets, and the distinctive shape and style of the modern black cab dates back to 1948 when manufacturer Austin developed the F.X.3 model taxi. Austin’s more famous F.X.4 model remained in continuous production for nearly forty years. All licensed London taxi drivers need to pass a test known as ‘The Knowledge’ before they can drive one of the famous black cabs. It can take between 2 and 4 years to pass the exam which is based on learning 320 routes between 25,000 streets and 20,000 landmarks all within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. (www.tfl.gov.uk)
On an August morning in 1969, photographer Ian MacMillan spent about ten minutes taking pictures of the Beatles walking across the pedestrian crossing in front of EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, and the resulting image became the cover for their 1969 album, Abbey Road. Every year, the site attracts thousands of Beatles’ fans from all over the world who wish to imitate the iconic photo. Check out the Abbey Road Crossing Webcam at www.abbeyroad.com/Crossing
The most famous recording studio complex in the world, Abbey Road Studios has been the location of countless landmark recordings. The studio is probably best known for its connection to the Beatles, but the studio has an extraordinary history working with some of the world’s most celebrated artists, producers, composers and orchestras. During the 1960s, it was the main recording studio for the Beatles, Cliff Richard, and the Hollies. From 1962-1970, the Beatles recorded almost all of their hits at the studios including their final album as a group, Abbey Road. Since 1980, the legendary studio has recorded a long list of famous film scores including Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.
Known to Sherlock Holmes as the ‘Northumberland Arms’, the site was originally a small hotel located near Scotland Yard and Charing Cross Station that was featured in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. When the hotel was converted into The Sherlock Holmes Pub in December 1957, it was filled with artifacts representing the adventures of the famous detective including Dr. Watson’s old service revolver, original cartoons, and even the stuffed and mounted head the Hound of the Baskervilles. The pub’s main attraction was the Sherlock Holmes exhibit created for the 1951 festival of Britain that was transferred and installed on the second floor of the building. Today, the world’s first replica of the famous detective’s sitting room and study at 221b Baker Street is still visible to diners through a large glass window.
The British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), often known as MI6, provides Her Majesty’s Government with ‘a global covert capability to promote and defend the national security and economic well-being of the United Kingdom’. The SIS was originally founded as the Foreign Section of the Secret Service Bureau in 1909, and its first offices were located in a small rented office space on Victoria Street in Westminster. In 1994, SIS moved to its large and prominent headquarters on the banks of the River Thames, known as Vauxhall Cross. Designed by architect Terry Farrell, Vauxhall Cross was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen in July 1994. SIS Headquarters has featured in several James Bond films, including GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day (all four starring Pierce Brosnan), and Skyfall (starring Daniel Craig).
On Sunday mornings, Columbia Market in East London is lined with stalls filled with an incredible selection of colorful flowers and foliage including fresh-cut bouquets, bedding plants, and shrubberies. The market is a popular destination for both locals and tourists who also visit the small art galleries, unique shops and cafés that line the historic street. Columbia Road was originally used as a pathway for sheep being taken to the slaughterhouses at Smithfield, and a covered food market established by Victorian philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts once operated on the site from 1869-1886. When the flower market began to evolve, plants were brought by handcart from nearby market gardens, and the market stalls were claimed on the day by the blow of a whistle.
London has been a canvas for street artists for at least the last twenty-five years, and East London has become known for being the ‘spiritual home of street art’. The area has attracted artists from all over the world, and exploring its streets can be a constantly unique experience as new work can suddenly appear overnight while previous art can be painted over or removed at any given time. Most street artists choose to preserve their identity and work under pseudonyms. Probably the most famous London street artist is known as ‘Banksy’ whose sometimes controversial stencils include pictures of people and animals engaged in ‘unexpected’ behaviour.
The biggest contemporary art event of the year, Frieze Art Fair London is celebrating its tenth year. Housed in a temporary structure in Regent’s Park, the fair features artwork from over 170 of the most forward-thinking contemporary galleries from all over the world. The event’s Sculpture Park located in Regent’s Park English Gardens, is free to the public and includes work by some of the most acclaimed international sculptors working today. Pictured is ‘Flowers that Bloom Tomorrow’ by Yayoi Kusama.